Take the Sword Part 1
“Morning Ethel, hows tricks?” Deputy Pete said, a cheeky grin painted on his wooden boyish face.
“Aint run tricks in here for years, ever since that damn circus came, snatched up all the good whores from here to the crater” Ethel stated.
“It’s just an expression-“ He smiled awkwardly taking stock of the bar with a quick side eye glance. He got a weird feeling all of a sudden but couldn’t explain it, like he walked into an animal cage and found it empty. Like something was looking at him deciding which part to pull off and eat first.
He swallowed but kept smiling as he tried to be as inconspicuous as possible sizing up the strangers in the bar. So far there were only two he could see, they were sat at a booth in the corner, the same one the clown was sitting in the day before but they weren’t clowns. Nevertheless they looked strange, the one facing his way was around thirty with dark receding hair and a grotesque scar on his neck that made the skin look pale and flabby. The one with his back turned was a giant with arms as thick as barrels, he was pretty hard to miss.
There were more in the back standing around the pool table. They were playing pool but there was something off about it. Their movements looked practised and robotic like they were playing pool in a stage play. Like no one was really interested in winning. Three guys, one a short jittery guy with spikey hair and beady eyes. A thin guy who was all angles with long hair tied back, and a tall guy with broad shoulders with his back turned.
“Nothing- I just gotta check something.” Pete said not looking at her.
He hitched up his gun belt, took a deep breath and approached the two sitting at the booth. He walked slow and deliberately but neither of the stranger decided to notice him. Or his heavy footfalls on the loose wooden floor.
He cleared his throat and put on his best shit eating grin. “Anything I can help you folks with?” His feet betrayed him with the sound of boot leather tensing.
The one with the scar turned his eyes slowly up to look at the deputy, one of them was milky and probably blind. He cut a weird grin that made him look like a shark. It was the kind of face someone might make if they’d never seen their face in a mirror.
“No officer” he said in a soft mocking tone with a gravelly voice.
The large man let out a grunt or a groan and Pete tried not to stare at him.
“You folks staying long, it’s just we don’t get too many strangers out here.”
“We’re not strangers” the strange man smiled again.
“Is that right?” The deputy tensed his jaw and swallowed. “You mind telling me what your business is here?”
“Just passing through” He said.
“Just passing through” Pete nodded, tapping his feet nervously.
“Is that a crime officer?”
“You wanna ask me how I got these scars?” he smirked.
“Cooking fried chicken” he laughed “That hot oil does get everywhere.” He grinned at the deputy.
“Is that right- you folks wouldn’t be carrying any weapons would you?” He let his hand fall onto his holster.
“Me? Not a one sir.” He said.
Pete took a look at the large man who didn’t say anything. Hulking arms framed a large gut and barrel chest with a small head on top.
“Does he look like he needs a weapon?” The man smiled again and let out a breathy laugh. “I’m just foolin’ around, he’s harmless, got the mind of a child- wouldn’t hurt a fly.” He smirked.
“I used to pull the wings off flies when I was a child” The deputy said.
“Is that right? – well I’ll bare that mind.”
“You do that” He said. “You folks have a nice day.” He stood there for a moment trying to think of something else to say tapping his gun belt. After a moment he turned and gave Ethel a worried look trying to signal with his head as he walked out of the saloon.
He walked out into the street looking back still feeling those predator eyes on him. A cold shiver like a knife playfully dragged down his back. His fingers drumming on the wooden handle of his colt. Trying to shake the feeling that it really wouldn’t do any good.
The deputy walked at a quick clip to get back to the sheriff’s station. He entered quickly looking at his gun rack silently thinking.
“H-hey you said you’d get me outta here! A strained nasally whining voice said.
Deputy Pete turned to the source of the noise absent mindedly, it was Bull with his head still stuck in the door of the jail cell.
“Oh right, I was going to see if Ethel had any butter or cooking grease or something- slipped my mind, sorry about that” He smiled sadly.
“S-Sorry?” Bull whined incredulous with his shiny bowling ball head unable to turn and look at him.
The rest of his crew were awake but in varying states of disrepair, battered and bruised all crushed up one side of the cell. As far as they could get away from the clown who lay on his back on the floor looking up at the ceiling fan spinning.
“Well good morning!” Deputy Pete said to the clown. He opened the cell slowly edging around Bully as he was dragged around by it having his head stuck in it.
“N-not so fast!”
“I’m being as gentle as I can be”. He said still looking at the clown “Hey you, you’re released, you can go, preferably as far away from here as possible.”
The clown got to his feet and walked towards the deputy. “The sword”.
“Oh that’s right-“ He stepped out of his way letting him step around Bull before shutting and locking the cell again. Everyone else inside seemed to breathe a sigh of relief seeing the clown go.
“Here take the damn thing” The deputy said letting a little of his nerves show as he took the sword out from under his desk and tossed it on the counter top.
Pookie readjusted his pants and slid the sword into his string belt. “Who took a crap in your cornflakes?”
“You did, you took a crap in my cornflakes- and what in the hell are cornflakes anyway?” The deputy snapped. He breathed out through his nose pressing his lips together “Your buddies showed up.”
“Well why don’t you just shoot’em” Pookie smiled.
“I’d love to but they haven’t done anything yet and I don’t wanna give’em the chance, that’s why you’re getting your clown ass outta town right now!”
“Wasn’t I promised a plate of beans?”
“That was yesterday, this is today.”
“I don’t even know where I’m going, I need a map, supplies a real bed for the night would be good.”
“I can throw you back in the cell if you want, tell your buddies to come right here.”
“NO!” the other men in the cell shouted in unison.
The deputy stopped to look out of the window. “You got any tickets?”
Pookie’s stomach growled.
“I’ll take that as a no- but none of that is my problem and if you’re not outta town by sundown I’ll run you out myself strapped to a mule.”
Pookie nodded and walked out of the jail into the morning sun, struck then realising he had no idea where he was going or what he was going to do. This world was entirely alien to him.
“Hey mister” A high pitched voice said.
Pookie turned shielding his eyes. A tall kid with milk bottle top glasses hopped off the bench outside of the jail licking an icecream cone.
The kid came up to him smiling his freckled face, he had light blonde hair pushed forward on his head. And he was wearing a set of coveralls with an anime robot over the breast pocket. Despite his voice and age he was just a little shorter than Pookie although he couldn’t seem to stand up straight. A chronic sloucher who nevertheless carried himself with an optimistic child-like bounce in his step.
“You’re from the circus right?” The boy gestured with the icecream cone.
“Wooooww! I know you, what’s your name? Pokey? Banjo? Poopy?”
“Yeah that’s right, Pookie- I’m like your biggest fan, the name’s Donny.” The boy smirked holding out his hand for Pookie to stare at. “-I watch all your shows when you come to town. I watched the one where you did the thing and you were like …- ya know” He started miming sword strikes with his icecream “And they were like bleurgh, ow my guts haha!” Donny smiled miming being disembowled and catching drips from his melting icecream. “My mom tries to stop me from going but I’ve got my own money” He winked.
“That’s great” Pookie said as he continued to walk on.
“Hey wait, I heard what the deputy said, you need tickets right?”
“What if I brought you breakfast at the saloon- and you can tell me all your cool stories?” He screeched in an unbroken line of dialogue gasping for breath between each word. “Like like like- you could tell me your cool backstory.” He said chasing after the clown trying not to drop his quickly melting icecream.. “Like maybe your whole family was killed by mutant wolves but one of the wolves raised you as their own and then you joined the circus. Or like your parents were from a rival tribe and clowns killed them but one of them couldn’t bring themselves to kill you. So raised you as their own living with the shame to one day have to reveal it in an emotional confrontation.” He paused thinking “Wait that’s pretty much the same story- I guess I’m not a good writer but I bet the real story is much cooler.” Taking a bite out of his icecream and in his excitement instantly regretting it “Brainfreeze!”
“So you’ll tell me?”
Pookie’s stomach growled even louder “Sure”
“Awesome!” The kid screamed chasing after the strange clown.
Pookie entered the saloon for the second time but this time the air was very different.
“Oh it’s you again- didn’t Pete lock you up?” Ethel said.
“No that was a different clown with a sword.”
“Oh” Ethel gaped.
“Morning Ethel!” The kid chirped excitedly wafting his icream around before letting a malformed blob of it fall onto the saloon floor. “My you’re looking lovely today”
“Can we get two plates of the house special for me and my new pal?”
“Sure thing kid”
The old bint disappeared into the back and Donny excitedly lead Pookie to a booth just to the left of the one he sat at when he first got there.
The kid was practically dragging the clown as he tried to get his bearings in this new ecosystem he’d stumbled into. He looked over in the back where the old men were still dozing and attempting to play some card game. The pool players replaced by the cardboard cutouts of generic pool players laughing and hitting balls at seemingly random intervals.
Excitedly the kid ushered Pookie into his seat which was facing out towards the bar and the exit adjacent to it.
Pookie was a little annoyed by the kids youthful exuberance but he promised to fill his belly so he could hardly protest too harshly. Then as if out of nowhere Pookie felt a sudden crushing feeling, the air in the room getting ten times heavier almost soupy. He could feel the hairs on the back of his neck raising up as if someone or something was sharpening their fangs waiting to pounce. More than that, straining to stop itself from doing exactly that. Every ounce of willpower holding it back from running its necessary course and ripping him apart.
Then there was a sinking feeling and an odd warmth at his back, a cloud moved out of the way of the sun and it cast a huge shadow over his table. A giant humanoid shape.
There was an itching scratching sound and a distinct whispering.
“…not yet… patience”
A low rumbling groan.
The old woman came back with their food and it looked like that might be the cause of the distress. The smell from the kitchen causing some form of mild epilepsy. The kid looked happy enough with whatever it was, possibly roadkill or the road itself. Pookie couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It looked almost like a plate full of yellow congealed earwax. Some hitherto unknown animal species roasted beyond all recognition lying next to it.
Pookie ate with long teeth but only a few bites in there came a hideous snapping sound that he hoped wasn’t anything vital in his intestinal lining. A scraping screeching noise followed, a cold chill swept through as a huge shadow fell like a curtain over the table.
Pookie turned his head leaning over his food to see a giant figure standing over him with a broken table leg in his hand and a cracked penguin mask on his face.
The giant swung with an intense speed and ferocity aiming to pin and obliterate his head against the table.
Pookie leaned back and let the blow annihilate the table leaving only splinters. Acting on instinct alone he pulled the draw string on his scabbard making that odd winding kazoo noise. The blade launched the handle of his sword past the giant’s face. The eyes in the pommel lit up letting out that tinny cringey laugh as the bottom of the blade sliced the side of the penguins neck open.
The clown tried to hop out of his seat holding his sword only partially out of the scabbard in his off hand.
Penguin stumbled, holding onto his neck with his other hand to stop the bleeding. He lifted his enormous arm up for another strike coming down just as hard and fast as before almost as an unbroken chain of attacks.
Pookie swiftly ducked under his large arm and with his sword and sheath fully out of his belt he lifted the bottom end of the scabbard. Tilting the scabbard up allowing the gravity to empty his sword into his hand.
He took it and it laughed again as he jammed it into the Penguin’s chest. Not smoothly but with a ratcheting wrenching motion as he tried to lever the point through layers of muscle and sinew and bone. Going as deep as it possibly could.
The giant didn’t make a sound other than a low heavy breathing as it looked down at the sword sticking out of it’s chest. It dropped the chair leg on the ground with a hollow sound and took a step forward before wrapping both it’s hands around Pookie’s neck. Lifting him off of the ground.
Without his hand there the cut on his neck sprayed vital fluid on Pookie and all over the saloon floor but it didn’t seem to phase him as he kept applying more and more pressure to Pookie’s neck. His hands were so large it seemed like he might just pop Pookie’s head off like toothpaste cap.
Pookie could do nothing but wriggled like a frog pinned to a dissection table. His legs flailing and kicking as he tried to free himself, his hands occupied with trying feebly to remove the hands of the giant around his neck. In the futility of it he let go of the giants wrist and put both hands around the handle of his sword and started to try and wiggle it free.
The giant penguin let out an echoing moan and Pookie felt his grip slackening but still he couldn’t breathe and he was starting to see spots.
He wriggled it harder but it wouldn’t budge, it wasn’t coming out, at least not the way it came in.
Pookie started to wrench it and pull it like it was an awe on a rowing boat. And he was churning up really choppy water full of meat and bones cracking and shifting.
The penguin moaned louder and his grip slackened a little more but still Pookie couldn’t breathe. In his desperation he started to knee the handle and hammer the pommel with his heel driving the sword deeper into the wound. By the time the guard was all the way in his chest cavity was when the penguin finally moaned like an oxen and let Pookie flop to the floor. Coughing and gasping for breath.
Pookie put his legs under him as soon as he had a lungful. The Penguin stood like a statue, his chest heaving, that stupid clown face pommel sticking out of it.
The penguin swayed thoughtfully and put his hands out for the clown. But Pookie wasn’t about to let himself get wrung out like a dirty dish clothe again. He ducked, dipping under one of his arms and turning into a sweeping heel kick hitting the clown face pommel driving it further towards it’s target.
Penguin tilted and swept around with his other hand but he’d become slow, his movements were like he was swimming through molasses. Pookie ducked the swipe again delivered a tight donkey kick on the clown faced pommel driving it further still.
The tip was now protruding all the way out of the giant’s back. He heaved and wheezed like a dog who swallowed a squeaky chew toy. His head hanging low, a light coloured blood bubbling up from under his mask.
But Pookie wasn’t done. He stepped forward quickly sweeping his front leg and spinning in the air to deliver a powerful turning kick to the pommel. Striking it like a soccer ball and launching it all the way through the monster and out the other side. It’s final destination the mirror above the bar, it wobbled spattered blood and other such liquids in all directions as the mirror spiderwebbed on impact. That dumb clown face lighting up and laughing as it shook.
The giant groaned and stumbled and looked down at the hole in it’s chest.
Pookie stooped to peek through at the terrified Ethel who was cowering behind the bar.
“Peekaboo”. He waved through the sizeable cavity in the giant’s chest.
Ethel ducked under the counter.
Penguin fell slow and it almost looked like he was shattering under his own weight, the colossus of Rhodes made grotesque flesh. Falling piece by piece with heavy deliberate sounds like it was raining whole sides of beef for a moment. And then came the silence.
Pookie looked around, covered head to toe in blood. The old coots were continuing their card game under the table. Ethel was peaking up from the bar and the pool players were looking over. The larger one with the broad shoulders just chalking the end of the cue and blowing it over and over.
Pookie mounted the bar and ripped his sword out of the mirror completely shattering it and almost raining ethel in shards of broken glass.
Donny popped up as if from nowhere. “Holy crap that was awesome!” He looked down at Ethel over the bar “Don’t worry old gal, I’ll cover all the damages, I promise. He looked back at Pookie as he cleaned the blood and guts off his sword with a bar mat. “Are you ok? I mean it looked like he almost ripped your head off.”
“Just peachy” Pookie grinned.
He let out a sharp gasp and clung to his side falling off the bar quite spectacularly landing face first onto a bar stool, his sword clanging by his side.
“Holy crap!- Quick, help me get-im to a bed” Donny yelped.
The young lad helped the clown to his feet, and lead by the old woman he helped the dazed man up the ramshackle wood stairs of the saloon. The construction of which was almost that of a tree house, barely holding together with tape and happy thoughts. The walls a bare unvarnished wood patched with rusty sheet steel.
Ethel opened a door to one of the rooms, it was small with only enough room for the bed with a deeply sweat stained mattress. A single chair and a closet at the end of the bed. The floor was bare floorboards with a thin hide rug of some unidentifiable grey animal with six legs.
“Lay him down here”
“Yeah I know how a bed works” The kid smirked as he gradually lowered Pookie onto the mattress.
“This room aint free kid.”
Donny smiled “I’ll cover it.”
“You better” Ethel waddled over to the door “What are you doing all this for, he a friend of yours?”
“I’m his biggest fan” He smirked.
“Uh huh, I’ll be back with some linen and hot towels” She quipped as she waddled down the hall.
Despite her surliness Ethel did return with some sheets but no hot towels or happy ending was to be had at this time.
Donny had some food brought up to him but the clown slept most of the day away in a near comatose state as his body tried to repair itself.
As the sun went down patience started to wear thin. There was a tapping on the metallic roof of the saloon with steel toes. And at the window; a nervous rapping on the glass slipped into the background as a dull metronome. A claw scraped the glass and a hushed voice repeated over and over at a manic pace.
“I can’t wait! I can’t wait! I can’t wait! I c-c-ccan’t wait!”